BARNSTABLE — Reading coach John Fiore was not worried about his eighth-ranked Rockets, even after Barnstable built a lead following back-to-back touchdowns to start of the second half.
A big part of Fiore’s unwavering confidence came from knowing the program’s career passing leader, James Murphy, was behind center.
The 6-foot-5-inch senior threw for 294 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 74 yards and two scores to help propel Reading to a 37-22 nonleague victory punctuated by 16 unanswered points to close the game.
“It’s pretty comforting,” Fiore said when asked about the presence of Murphy. “And our O-line is selling out to give him whatever space and he’ll take it and make a play. It was a good night for him. I’m proud of him and proud of our team.”
Murphy helped Reading (2-0) establish control over Barnstable (0-2) in the first half with two 1-yard touchdown runs on quarterback sneaks. Senior Jack Dougherty added a 42-yard touchdown run to help the Rockets take a 21-8 lead into halftime.
Junior Tajardo France cut Barnstable’s deficit to 21-15 with a 10-yard touchdown off a jet sweep on the team’s first possession of the the third quarter. Another junior, Hiago Salomao, gave the Red Hawks a 22-21 advantage — their first and only lead — when he ran for a 3-yard touchdown and added a 2-point conversion with 5:44 left in the quarter.
That’s when Reading flipped a switch and closed the game with 16 consecutive points. Murphy connected with sophomore Jake Palm for a 13-yard TD pass, then ran for the 2-point try before senior Max Leone closed the door with a 5-yard run with 3:18 remaining.
“This is a huge win,” Murphy declared. “It shows the resilience of our team. This is a really good Barnstable team — they’re really well coached — but I just think this shows our resilience and how well we prepared and how mentally tough we are.”
Barnstable coach Ross Jatkola called Reading “an unbelievable football team.”
“I haven’t seen a quarterback like [Murphy] at the high school level, I don’t think ever,” Jatkola said. “When we went up 22-21 after going down where it looked like it could’ve been a 42-0 game in the first half, our kids showed how much heart they have and how much guts they have to fight back against one of the best teams in the state. So, I’m proud of where we’re at.”